Convinced that the failure of the tests on the chimpanzee and gorilla subjects was related to the creatures’ inability to cope with the stress of the procedure due to their limited mental capacity and their inability to understand what was happening to them, three volunteers from the Phoenix Projects took it upon themselves to perform unauthorized tests on humans. Without the knowledge or consent of Dr. Leyans, three volunteers agreed to simultaneously interface with the system. They knew they would only get one shot at it and, aware of the high risk to themselves but confident in the success they would achieve, they wanted to have multiple positive results to strengthen the argument for further human trials. Of the three test volunteers, two died upon the severance of the symbiotic link between the subject and the system, and the third suffered severe psychosis requiring her to be institutionalized; the well-meaning volunteers in a single act confirmed the failed results on the simian test subjects and simultaneously dealt a death blow to the project.
Ken had been torn between the grief and guilt he felt for his colleagues and the frustration and anger at the untimely demise of the project so close to achieving complete success. The link‑up had been successful in all three cases; he had the complete record of their brain responses to their trips back in time into their own past, and all seemed normal until the link was severed and the attempt was made to bring them out of their virtual reality. The new generation mainframes which he had developed contained voluminous amounts of data on each of the psychic “voyages” undertaken by the project volunteers. While it would take years of close scrutiny to fully analyze such data and to yield conclusive results, there was little doubt from the preliminary findings that the experiments had been successful, other than for the recurring fatal flaw.
Yet, despite these unquestionable triumphs, the Senate Oversight Committee had decided to scrap the project. The computer equipment would certainly be put to some use, and he was assured of getting credit for that part of the project; but the Phoenix Project was effectively dead. All research relating to it would be branded top secret and filed away beyond the reach of espionage or the Freedom of Information Act.
But all was not lost. His father’s warning had purchased him a grace period of perhaps a day, or at least the better part of it. No guards were likely to storm his lab at 2:00 A.M., at any rate. Ken smiled; there was something to be said for red tape, after all. [End of preview]
The above is a brief excerpt from the short story “What Price to Live the Dream?” available as a stand-alone Kindle book and as one of the eight short stories in Book of Dreams 2nd Edition. (C) 2011 Victor D. Lopez. All rights reserved.